Monday, March 31, 2014

So Long, Morgan

Greetings friends and family!

We are one step closer to finding church/life balance.  We hosted the largest party ever at the Casa de Webb.  Now that is behind us and we are looking at small hills to climb instead of huge mountains in the near future.

The past few weeks set a new high-water mark for what we can accomplish and our tipping point for what is "too much".  We were certainly stretched and I wouldn't change much from the way things went.  When I agreed back in January to take on the new job responsibilities and ministry opportunities I knew we would find the limits of our capabilities and blow by them.  It is only in the boundaries of a healthy marriage that any couple should attempt to find limits of capabilities.  I know this experientially from a few years ago when I earned my masters degree.  Those two years of increased stress and decreased time together nearly crushed us and our marriage.    Even though we added the twins to our responsibilities since then, the season we just went through brought us closer together, as it should.

The going away party for our friend Morgan was a great party in spite of the sadness of saying good-bye to our friend.  50 people (yes, f-i-f-t-y) gathered to celebrate Morgan's friendship and wish her well in moving to California.  My favorite picture of the night is this one because I'm in it (go figure) along with the star of the show, Miss congeniality herself, Layla.

The greenbelt provided a huge open space for tables and seating for the dinner we prepared.  Easton and Layla were social butterflies with the adults and playmates for the other kids who showed up.

Layla and here friends found pine cones and some pink flowers.  She brought me two pine cones decorated with the pink flowers and asked to put them on display.  How could I say no to that creativity?  Easton was close by and wanted to jump in the picture with his sister.  Why not?  Both of them are full of silly sunshine fun.

We sat Morgan in the middle of us and each person shared a memory or encouraging word for her.  There is something very special about sending someone to their next destination with a blessing and prayers.  Morgan lived with us for 6 months or so last year.  she became like a sister to me in a way I've never experienced before.  There is no other girl on the planet outside my family who I would be alone with.  This is not a rule I have or Kendra enforced.  It's just the right thing to do, in my opinion.

No married man should ever be alone with another woman outside his family.  That's my own personal conviction, but it's a valid boundary for marriage.  However, she was our roommate and sister so Kendra and I adjusted these boundaries appropriately.  There were times when Morgan and I hung out at home while Kendra was gone or Morgan would go with me to the store.  I will miss our late-night conversations at the dining room table.  I will miss the sibling-type of joking around.  I will miss the comfortability of her coming over and walking in our front door whenever she wanted.  I will miss my friend when she leaves next week.

I took Layla with me for errands one evening.  I wandered the halls of home depot with her for a bit.  Then she saw the garden center outside and asked to go look around.  I've been giving her more and more freedom lately to go on her own adventures.  I agreed and she made a bee-line for the flowers.  When I finished my shopping list I went to the garden area to retrieve Layla.  I found her still in the flower isle smelling flowers and picking petals.  She is so artistically minded and has a great eye for beauty.  She described each petal and what they smell like.  Enjoying the mundane together is sometimes the greatest adventure.

Easton and I took our neighbor and his two boys to experience Bella Gaia (Beautiful Earth), which is a cultural event and performance.  before going there, Easton and I had some guy time at the revolving sushi bar with just the two of us.  This was his first experience pulling plates from the never-ending parade of sashimi and rolls passing by.  He said his favorite was octopus.  He got a kick out of eating the suckers off.

 $40 each ticket x 5 tickets = $200 worth...  for free.  I couldn't pass it up no matter odd it sounded.  The event included audio,video, and pictures from the international space station and the astronauts who went there.  It also had live instruments, singers, and dancers.  The show was 90 minutes of auditory and visual overload.  It was intense and, at times, a stretch for me to comprehend what was being presented.

Easton stayed interested and never fell asleep, which is a feat itself because the show started 30 minutes after his bedtime.  The show was weird, but cool.  It went straight from showing images of the solar system to an elephant god in India.  Other than that awkward transition and 5 minutes of explaining their culture it was a wholesome show.  The beliefs presented were not stated as "truth", but rather a cultural exploration of people that happen to believe differently than me.  I wish they would have left all religious context out of Bella Gaia, but that's just my personal taste.

We went on our second geocaching adventure last week.  This time it was a quarter mile walk from our house.  This is the closest one to our house.  I've been waiting for a 30 minute window of free time for us to go check it out.  Layla brought a turquoise play ring and Easton brought an action figure.  We lifted the housing right on the side of the trail and found the simple plastic container with not much inside.  The twins wrote their names in the log book and we left our items in the jar.  It was a great lesson in blessing others.  I'm glad there was nothing but junk in there because I was able to teach them the idea of how it is better to give than to receive.  They didn't whine or cry or throw a fit.  I was a proud Dad.  They listened and we talked about how great it will be to bless some other kids who find this geocache even though we are walking home empty handed.  So many lessons to learn and so little time.

See you soon!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Space Shuttle Complete

Greetings friends and family,

The biggest project of Easton's short life is finally complete.  50 days ago I bought a box of Megablok parts from Craigslist for $10.

Easton and I started building it by working on two or three steps each night.

We built the base and as Easton lifted it up to take a picture he said, "This thing is going to be huge, Dad!"  Yes...  Yes it will be, son.

Each morning he would come in my room and along with asking for breakfast he would ask when we will be able to do another step on the space shuttle.

We made it this far and I realized we were missing many pieces.  There are supposed to be 2005 pieces, but my guess is that we were short about 100 or so.  I found another full, used set online at a goodwill auction and bought it for $8.  We continued to build what we could without the missing parts.  He did more than half of the work throughout the project.  Sometimes he would get parts and I would build.  sometimes I would get parts and he would build.

Little by little it began to take shape and look more like a space shuttle.   Our second set came by mail and dumped all the parts together, then sorted them according to size and shape.  That cut our build time in half because we didn't have to search through thousands of pieces to find one little part.

His math skills took a major leap forward.  He was doing addition, subtraction, and multiplication with lightning speed to determine how many parts to get and what size and shape they are.

When we put the tail on he really ramped up passion for making progress.  He built the tail all by himself and couldn't wait to get it attached.

Building the wing was no small task.  I had to do most of it and I won't lie...  it was difficult even for me to keep concentration that long with arranging that many pieces in one step.  When we connected the wing to the body it was a magical moment.

Then we built the other wing and connected it as the last step.  The booklet contains 189 steps.  The two of us worked through all of them together.  I never would have guessed this project would be such a challenge, but it was worth it to experience the time working together and seeing the satisfaction on his face.

Some events and projects come to a close with a should shrug or fizzle.  When we realized there were no more steps we screamed and danced and high-fived and cheered.  Not that it was over, but that we could play with it now.

I don't know of any other six year old with the passion, focus, and perseverance to accomplish anything close to this.  I'm most proud of Easton for not giving up or losing hope.  We hit some serious road-blocks along the way, but he trusted me when I promised we were going to finish it no matter what.

Not sure why this picture is funny to me, but it captures Easton's level of excitement really well.   This was the best $18 I've ever spent for Easton.

We placed in on the kitchen table for a day so we could showcase it.  All the items in the cargo area are meticulously built, down to the little satellite's solar panels and radar.  After all the hoopla I picked him up and spent a good five minutes expressing in words how proud I was of him for what he did.  He got a little uncomfortable because I was so adamant about him looking me in the eyes when we talked, but after I finished talking he was able to share his own thoughts and gave me compliments as well.

A thought ran through my mind that when he gets tired of it we might be able to donate it to the Arizona space museum.  We were just there and I know they don't have one like this!  Considering a new set costs $260 and it hasn't been produced since 2002, I think we have a rare, if not one-of-a-kind, space shuttle.

I found this Youtube clip of a time lapse photography that shows the progression of it being built.

The only downside of our project is that Layla got a little jealous a few times.  She didn't get equal Daddy time.  I'm OK with her feeling that way though.  She needs to know that although we love her no matter what, sometimes Easton is the focus and star of the show.  She has to learn to share the spotlight sometime and there's no better time than now to learn that lesson.  I did several special things with her along the way to make sure she didn't feel slighted or less important than Easton.  I wouldn't do anything different if I were to do this over again.  In the midst of our crazy quarter of ministry and events and giving and all the other tiresome things, it was very valuable to me to have this project to have a point of connection with Easton.  Just goes to show me that no matter how busy I am, there is always time for what's important.

Speaking of taking time...  I've only been able to ride with friends about once per month for the past several months.  When I get out I make the most of it!  Time with Jeff is always time well spent.  He is a big encourager and it's always refreshing to be around someone of the same caliber where I can just be myself.

If you ever need to change out 600 lbs. of sand in a pool filter, let me know.  My pool guy was going to charge me $300 plus material!  I said, "no thanks, i'll do it myself."  That sentence rarely comes out of my mouth when it comes to home repair, but I got this.  My shop vac (thanks Dad) worked like a charm.  3 hours later i had an empty filter ready to be refilled.  Oh, the joys of home ownership.  I will gladly take a couple of days worth of free time to spend the summer in our wonderful backyard swimming.

Haboob!  That's a funny word.  It's even more awkward to be using that word in March.  Usually the monsoon dust storm created by collapsing thunder storms don't start until July.  I think it's going to be a long, hot summer.  Here's a panoramic shot of the 1,500 foot-high wall of dust coming at us.  I took this picture, then drove home quickly to batten down the hatches.

See you soon!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Geocaching Twins

Greetings friends and family,

It seems to be feast or famine around here when it comes to Daddy time with the dynamic duo.  Kendra's week has been filled with shopping for clothes, getting to know a new friend, and many hours of church time.  I can't explain anything now, but she may have 15 seconds (and i'm not exaggerating) of TV fame in a few months.

My famine of Daddy time is over.  Here comes the flood!  I've been hanging out with Easton and Layla (and sometimes friends) many hours over the past week or so.  Their friend Kayla came over for a visit while her mom and Kendra went out shopping.  Their "I'm hungry" chorus became so loud that I had to remedy it with a snack.  I chopped up apples, a pineapple, bananas and blackberries.  I gave out a single toothpick to each without any instructions.  They quickly realized the pure enjoyment of fruit kabobs.  It's fresh, healthy, cold, and fills empty tummies.

 I introduced the twins to geocaching.  The idea is to use GPS to locate hidden treasures.  leave a trinket, take a trinket, and sign the log book to indicate when you found it and who you are.  There are over 2 million geocaches documented in the US.

They each took a toy and I took my camelbak with gatorade and snacks.  We headed out to South Mountain where I knew a few geocaches existed.  On the trail they were literally running up the mountain.  We made record time to the fourth peak and went further than we've ever gone before.  On the way we identified cacti.  They have a healthy fear of cacti, but we stopped to interact with one.  We stopped and I said, "I'll show you how to touch this cactus because this one has only a few huge needles, not hundreds of tiny ones."  They backed away with eyes wide open and I showed them it is not dangerous to touch the cactus if you know where and how and which ones are safe.  After seeing me do it with no pain or blood they slowly put their tiny finger on the side of one big needle.  Their judgment against all cacti was obliterated and now they understand what is ok and not ok.

There is a lesson in there somewhere.  My job as a dad is not to keep them from the world, but to help them properly relate to and interact with it.  I could easily have just said, "all cacti are evil and will kill you!"   However, when they get older and realize I was lying then it brings into question everything else I tell them. It's a matter of integrity and character.  I want them to trust me and my advice.  That only happens as my input is proven over time.

Anyway, this next picture is a good perspective of how steep the mountain peaks are.  Easton and Layla were scrambling up like warriors!

We arrived at the place where the GPS signal indicated.  After 5 minutes of looking around in the rock piles we found it!  An ammo can barely showing in a pile of rocks.  We opened it to find a bunch of useless junk, but the fun of it was adding our useless junk to theirs and taking something new home.  I let them write their names in the log book and then we re-hid the secret stash.

On our way back we stopped at the top and I took this panoramic of the twins with the city and park behind them.  This was one of their favorite hikes ever and I foresee many geocaching trips in our near future.

While at church one of the many times over the past few weeks I asked, "where is Layla?"  Someone pointed to the large grassy water retention area.  I looked over to see Layla rolling down the slope.  Not exactly play clothes, but she was having such a gleeful time I didn't bother stopping her.  I waited patiently at the bottom where the drainage pipe is.  I asked to take a picture of her having fun and she posed like this:

She's had more pictures taken of her in 6 years of life than most people get in 90 years of life.  It shows in her posing ability.

During one of our evenings together I took the twins out to the greenbelt to unwrap one of their birthday gifts.  It is this game where you throw this rope with a ball on each end towards the pvc pipe structure and try to get it to wrap around the pipes.

I liken it to horseshoes for kids.  They had a blast.  We played until the sun went down and they were asking to continue.  I even heard them ask when we could play again after we went inside for bed time.  For birthday gifts we don't give them the entire lot at one time.  We give them a few toys here and there to space it out over the course of a few months.  Seems to work out much better that way instead of just giving the entire lot of gifts at one time.

And it other news...  The Megablocks Space Shuttle is coming along nicely!  Easton is really coming along well with his math and ability to follow directions.  He's also taking the lead now in working through the steps.  Now when I say, "get me four white 6x2 skinny pieces" He dives towards the zip lock bags of pieces and in mere seconds places the pieces on the table in front of me.  Not only that, he completed a few steps all by himself!  The first wing is done.  One more to go.  We are on step 147 out of 188 (or so).  This boy is determined.

He's also a lot like me.  He came into our room at 7:15am like he always does.  He was dressed for school, had his bed made, and prepared his backpack for class.  I rubbed the crust from my eyes and noticed Easton's outfit.  I thought, "Hey, I can match that!"  So I went to my closet and he helped me pick out as close of an outfit as we could get.  Right down to the Chuck Taylor Converse shoes (thanks to Logan and Bree).  By the way, Layla took these pics of Easton and I.

Kendra was busy packing lunches and getting ready so I had her take a few shots of us being silly together.  He would make a face and a body position.  Then I would mimic him.  It was harder than you think because we were both laughing so much together.

Lucky for me, I have a job where I can show up at work with this outfit and nobody notices or cares because everyone dresses like this.  dressing up at work means a button down shirt and jeans.  anything more than that and people will ask, "are you interviewing for a new job?"  Seriously.  It's that kind of culture.  Reason number 593 that I love my work environment.  The 4 Webbs are highly favored.  I don't take that for granted in the slightest little bit.

See you soon!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

No Gravitron for You

Greetings friends and family,

Easton and I were driving around during one of our father-son outings when we passed a carnival.  Easton hasn't been to one of those in a couple of years, but he instantly was excited by the spinning equipment and flashy lights.  As we passed my eyes locked onto my personal favorite:  The Gravitron!  It's a spinning room where people stand inside the UFO shaped ride.  The whole unit spins around and sticks the participants to the wall by centrifugal force.  the floor drops out and it's magic.  I asked Easton if he wanted to try it.

We went home as planned and ate dinner with the girls.  I checked online to validate when the fair was open and the height requirements for the Gravitron.   From what I could see online it was 42 inches.  I thought, "great!  Easton is 45".  After dinner he and I headed back to the carnival where I bought just enough tickets to ride the Gravitron.  Total cost for two tickets was $6.  Before I gave the money I explained that Easton was 45 inches tall and I confirmed with the ticket guy that the height requirement was 42 inches.  He nodded and sold us the tickets.  We walked over noticing there was no line and people were climbing aboard.  I took a picture as the "before" picture in case he puked.

The ride manager stopped us on the way through and...  ugh.  48 inches?  oh, come on, give me  a break.  It was, in fact, 48 inches and not one hair less.  

I don't mind these situations.  My job as a parent is not to keep my kids from disappointment.  Guess what?  there's plenty of that in the real world when he grows up so there's no need to shield him from it now.  I did several things correctly.  On our way there I prepped him with a caution that there is a chance we may not get to ride it due to various reasons (ride closed, age/height restrictions, long line, etc.) so he had the proper expectation before we even set foot on the carnival grounds.  After hearing the disappointing news that he was not tall enough he shrugged his shoulders and said, "what else can we ride?"  I was a proud parent at that moment.  I've taught Easton and Layla this famous quote:  You can't have adventures unless you go adventuring!  and the corollary is:  "Sometimes adventures don't work out as we plan them to and that's ok."

unfortunately every single big-boy ride in the carnival was 48 inches except the Wacky Shack.

That one was our only choice so the two of us wandered through the 25 second tour of fun-house mirrors and rotating doors.  He was sad about how cheesy and short the "ride" was, but it was better than nothing.  I promised him that next year was the year of the Gravitron!  It's also a way i get him to eat broccoli and lettuce so he'll grow tall.

Kendra and I have been looking forward to this week since January 1 because of the insane amount of time and effort we've been spending on work and ministry between that day and now.  The day we looked forward to the most was a celebration of the death of overwhelming commitments.  our celebration was a date-night with our couple friends.  We went to dinner and then to the Jesus Culture concert.  I was so excited to just spend time with Kendra singing along to our favorite songs and just being together.  We showed up and found this whole group of friends from our church were there as well!

An outdoor evening concert in March can only be enjoyed in a few cities across the country.  Phoenix is one of them.  We sat in our camp chairs with a warm blanket while cuddling the night away.

There were several times we stood to sing along and worship with the massive crowd.  Kendra was standing and I took this picture of her with the night sky as the backdrop.

Watching her connect to God through worship is a regular occurrence and I don't take it for granted.  I know the prayers of my parents work because I know they prayed me out of many relationships when I was young that would not have resulted in a wife who is pursuing God and me as tenaciously as Kendra.  I am blessed and she is responsible for almost the entire measure of my blessing.  There is nothing better for our relationship than for her to continually seeking to become more of who God made her to be.

See you soon!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Participatory Dad

Hello friends and family,

Allow me to mourn the leaving of Ouma one more time before we move on to brighter days.  One of Layla's birthday gifts was a full set of "body art" tools and materials.  No, these are not tattoos.  At least, not in the Webb house.  It's a tough discussion topic around here because although we have God-loving friends and family and pastors who sport copious amounts of tattoos, neither Kendra nor I have a single one.  I don't want the twins to be judgmental about those who have tattoos.  I also don't condone them because it's not a part of who we are as the 4 Webbs.

I gladly participated in Layla's "body art".  She puts a sticky stencil on my arm, then coats it with glue.  Then sprinkles on whatever color of glitter that comes to mind.  My silver musical notes lasted 6 days!  I had to scrub them off in the shower...  totally worth it to let her give me the only thing a six-year-old has to offer:  her creativity.  I could have just watched across the room and said, "that's nice, sweetie".  But because Layla knows I'm a participatory Dad she invited me into her world knowing I will gladly join her adventures.

Here are a couple of pictures from the lunch with Ouma.  Layla's shirt is spot-on.  She is as cute as a cupcake.

We went to the park across the street from my work.  The playground equipment was completely revamped.  My two monkeys were gymnasts climbing all over the structure.  Of course, I joined them too because what fun would that be to just watch?  This is what I call being a participatory Dad.  This level of parenting is not necessary, but sure makes it much more enjoyable!

This week we hit a milestone in the Webb house.  I walked into the kitchen to find Easton staring in the fridge saying, "I'm hungry, mom."  I froze in my tracks and considered the implications of this moment.  I get to experience 12 more years of this exact scene.  If I have a ground-hog scene for a Dad, it would be this one.  As he grows, our fridge will get more and more use.  Welcome to day 1 of a 12 year journey.

I took the twins to the park.  Easton rode his Y-bike, Layla rolled in her skates, and I rode my bike.  I could have walked, but that's not as involved as a participatory Dad could be. They asked that ride my bike so we could all be on wheels together.  Why not?

We laid in the grass staring up at the clouds while using our imagination to see ducks and trees.  Clouds are rare in Phoenix so we have to make hay while it's sunny, so to speak.  The three of us jolted up as a furry animal ran circles around us.  Once my heart stopped pounding and the little lightning ball of fur stopped, I saw it was just the neighbor's puppy.  Any chance we get to fill the puppy void with other people's dogs is a win for 4 Webbs.

Every morning for the past month when Easton crawls into bed with us at 7:15 am his first topic of conversation is the space shuttle.  He asks, "Are we going to do the next step today?"  " Can I get the parts ready for it?"  He is not obsessed, but just determined.  I am extremely impressed by his tenacity and motivation to stick to this gargantuan project.

It's coming together nicely and looks more like a space shuttle every day.  We have yet to be missing a part, which is miracle considering we are collapsing two scattered sets into one workable finished product.  There is no way Easton could build this by himself.  I knew that going into the project.  But I also knew how much fun we would have together.  A participatory dad is one who not only provides the money and stuff to help a child find his passion, but also is deeply involved in it too.

The weather is perfect this time of year.  I went to the kitchen for breakfast one morning, but something was different.  the noise volume was very low.  I looked out the back door to see the twins waiting patiently for me to join them for dinner.  Homemade pancakes and a fresh juice smoothie?  Yes, please!  It would have been sufficient to give the twins a breakfast treat of eating outside, but that's not enough.  As a participatory dad they put a (tiny) chair there for me because they know I am willing to sit at their table and eat breakfast with them.  They expect me to be involved and that makes me happy to see their preparation.

Lest anyone think it's just about dear old Dad, Kendra is the same as a mother.  It's just that she doesn't take pictures or write blog posts so there aren't as many references to pull from.  This one instance is a prime example for her though.  Layla jumped up in her lap and Kendra showed her how to use the scrunchy thing to do her own pony tail.  I call that enabling or empowering.  Teaching Layla how to do this for herself, by example, is the most effective way to build Layla in the fine young lady she will be.

Forgive me if this seems like bragging about how great I am.  That's not my intention.  There are many dads who are so deeply involved with their kids that they make me look like an absent father.  This isn't about comparison though.  I only have insight into my own family and how we are choosing to use our time.  There are always ways for me to improve, but on many levels I'm content with the prioritization and focus.  It's the little things that mean the most to six-year-olds.

See you Soon!